·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


What Your Law Firm Needs to Know About SOC 2 Compliance

— May 28, 2020

SOC 2 compliance is relevant to any law firm that seeks to ensure client data privacy and control. With the right IT partner or internal IT team, you can prepare your law firm for a SOC audit.

As data protection continues to become a mandatory part of business, understanding the rules, and acquiring the right compliance, is vital for all law firms. The protection and controlled access to consumer data is no longer an option for any forward-looking business. Your firm needs to comply with regulations to ensure that your clients’ data does not fall into the wrong hands. If your law firm operates digitally, SOC 2 compliance is one of the frameworks you should consider. Let’s discuss SOC 2 compliance and why your law firm needs it.

What Is SOC 2 Compliance?

In today’s tech-savvy world, most businesses have moved their operations to digital platforms to increase efficiency and store client data. While the move is necessary for every modern law firm, it also leaves legal practitioners open to cyberattacks. Because law firms store sensitive consumer information, they are hotspots for hackers.

System and Organization Controls for Service Organizations 2 or SOC 2 compliance ensures that all enterprises that store, process, and transmit private consumer data have the right security measures to ensure its safety. It functions as an auditing standard that tests an organization’s capacity to control information security and privacy. There are also SOC 1 and SOC 3 audit reports, all developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

How to Become SOC 2 Compliant

For your law firm to become SOC 2 compliant, you need to undergo an audit by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or an accountancy firm. The AICPA stipulates the standards for conducting the audits professionally and transparently. It’s a long process and, therefore, preparing for the audit ensures that you pass. The SOC 2 framework tests your compliance against different aspects and levels of trust.

The Trust Services Criteria

Security criteria: This criterion evaluates your systems for data security and ensures that client data is safe at all times. It is a mandatory step for SOC 2 compliance because it affects other controls such as confidentiality, privacy, and processing integrity.

Availability criteria: This criterion ensures that your systems are always available to clients. It addresses concerns such as downtime and network performance.

Confidentiality criteria: This criterion sets the standard for the protection of confidential information. It addresses how your law firm collects, identifies, and destroys confidential information.

Privacy criteria: This criterion addresses how your firm collects, handles, distributes, and stores private information such as names, addresses, social security numbers, financial records, and other personally identifiable information.

Processing Integrity: This criterion sets standards for your computer systems and ensures that they provide services in an accurate and timely manner. It also addresses how long your systems identify problems, the time it takes to fix problems, and authorized storage.

The Steps to Becoming SOC 2 Compliant

A SOC 2 report can take several months of planning and implementation. Having a framework to guide you while you implement each step can help you acquire fast results.

Two men with laptops reviewing paperwork; image by Helloquence, via
Two men with laptops reviewing paperwork; image by Helloquence, via

Create Your SOC 2 Team: Having a team of experts to guide your law firm through the audit process is the best way to become compliant. You may either have an independent internal team or outsource the services to an IT firm. Your team may include:

  • Chief Technology Officer
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Legal office
  • IT Office
  • Risk Manager
  • Consultant

Set your goals and scope: Why do you need SOC 2 compliance? Do you want an audit for the whole firm or specific parts of your organization? It would be best if you also decided which of the Trust Services Criteria apply for your job.

Start organizing: For every criterion you select, create an effective checklist that determines if you are compliant.

Conduct an internal audit: Before signing up for an external audit, consult and conduct an internal audit. It can help you limit gaps as you prepare for the final audit.

Apply for a SOC 2 audit: Engage a qualified CPA to conduct an audit, guide remediation measures, or issue a SOC 2 report. 

Why Does Your Law Firm Need SOC 2 Compliance?

The cost of a data breach: According to a report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach in 2019 was $3.92 million. Though the figure can vary per industry and per firm, the costs are still high, with the cost per record estimated at $150.

Client preference: While complying isn’t mandatory; it assures your clients that you can handle their private information. It’s also a competitive advantage for any law firm operating in the 21st century, especially one that has migrated to cloud platforms.

Overall security: Becoming compliant opens up your computer systems to inspection and points out any errors and weak points that need fixing. It can improve the overall cybersecurity at your law firm.

Bottom Line 

SOC 2 compliance is relevant to any law firm that seeks to ensure client data privacy and control. With the right IT partner or internal IT team, you can prepare your law firm for a SOC audit.

Join the conversation!